My Day-After-Thanksgiving Tradition

Scrolling through my inbox this morning, the impression is that I, and everyone in the world, absolutely must go shopping today. Better yet, we all should have been in line somewhere at midnight to buy an outrageously huge electronic device at a once-in-a-lifetime price. But here I am, at home, having just deleted 187 of those Black Friday emails. And I'm not even sorry.

Dad's smoked turkey staying warm in the electric roaster.

Dad's smoked turkey staying warm in the electric roaster.

Is there something wrong with me? Did this momma finally crack under the pressure and forget that she has 5 kids that will be disappointed without the best. gift. EVER? Nah, I'm okay. Really, I am. It's just that I have something far more important to do today than to feed the corporate money munching machine. I am not teaching my kids that we need more, I am showing them how to be content with what we have. I am giving them a lesson in using the things we have been given to their fullest, and not being wasteful. How is this being accomplished? By the homely act of making turkey broth.

If you have never made your own broth or stock, you are missing out! It is simple to do, costs next to nothing, and is far superior to what you will find at the grocery store. The cost is minimal because you start with something that many folks would consider trash - the turkey carcass. Please, for the love of all that is delicious, don't put those leftover bones, and skin, and inedible bits of turkey into the garbage! I pick off as much meat as I can, and save it for making casseroles and sandwiches and pot pies. Everything else goes into my big electric roaster.

I like to use the electric roaster for several reasons. First, I already own it. I wouldn't run out and buy one just to make broth, but it does make things easier. So if you have one, use it. Second, it is HUGE. I can put the carcass into the roaster completely intact. If you don't have one, you will need to use the largest pot you own and break the turkey up so that it fits into the pot. Third, I feel pretty comfortable leaving the roaster plugged in and turned on even if I'm not there to keep and eye on it. Not so if I'm using a pot on the stove, but feel free to use your stovetop if you'll be able to hang around for a few hours. 

Once the carcass is in your cooking implement of choice, the only thing that you absolutely must add is water. Enough to cover the turkey. If your pot isn't big enough to completely cover the bird without spilling, that's okay. Just use as much as you can. As the turkey cooks down, it will break apart and won't stand so tall in the pan. If your turkey had aromatics in the cavity (onions, garlic, carrots, etc) then go ahead and include those. If not, add those now. This year, my turkey had apples and onions. But my go-to combination for making broth is carrots, onions, and celery. If you are adding them, go ahead and scrub the carrot, but there is no need to peel them or the onions. Your celery can include the leaves. It will all be strained at the end, so you don't have to be particular about preparing them. Just whack the onion into quarters, and cut the carrots and celery in half and toss them all in your pot. Add some herbs, fresh if you are able, and a bit of garlic if you are so inclined. It could be roasted garlic if you are feeling extra industrious. Then turn on the heat to medium-low and let it cook.

I actually put my turkey into the roaster yesterday evening and let it cook all night. As I said, I feel comfortable leaving the big roaster unattended. But you may want to start cooking your broth in the morning and let it go until afternoon so you can keep an eye on it. After several hours at a very low simmer, the bones will completely separate from each other. The fat will be rendered completely, and even the toughest bits of meat that you weren't able to pick off before will be tender at this point. The broth should be golden in color, and should have a nice aroma. I don't usually taste it at this point, because the fat will be floating on top and there will be a lot of it. We will take care of that later. For now, we need to separate the liquid stock from the solids.

The simplest way to strain your stock is to place a large colander on top of a large pot, and pour or ladle your stewed goodies into it. The stock will run through into the pot below, and the solids will be caught in the colander above. If you want a clear broth, you could line the colander with a piece of cheesecloth, but I personally don't mind the smaller bits of meat and herbs that end up in my broth. I think of them as magic flavor bits. Now you could just defat your stock, and throw the solids out. But... It's amazing to me, every single time I do this, just how much meat ends up in that strainer even though I had picked the bird clean before starting the process. There is no need to be wasteful - pick through the colander and remove as much of that meat as you can before throwing out the skin, bones (keep and eye out for the wishbone!), herb stems, and vegetable scraps. The meat that I saved will be going into turkey soup with rosemary dumplings tonight. (I just skip the first paragraph of instructions, and substitute the homemade stock and saved turkey for the chicken, water, and broth.) So now that you have your solids handled, it's time to defat the broth.

Turkey meat, bones, and herbs left in the strainer after pouring the broth through.

Turkey meat, bones, and herbs left in the strainer after pouring the broth through.

If you have a specially designed cup for separating fat from broth, now is the time to bust that out of the cabinet and use it! But if not, there are other methods. Let the broth cool down, then add a few large handfuls of ice cubes. After a few minutes, the fat will have solidified and stuck to the ice floating on the surface. Just scoop it out into the strainer that you already got dirty when you strained the solids. Place it in the sink and let the ice melt out before throwing the fat away. Or you can refrigerate the stock and wait for the fat to float to the top. It may not harden completely, but it will thicken up enough that it can be spooned off the top and discarded. 

Now that the broth has been defatted, give it a taste. Add a bit of salt if needed, but if your bird was well seasoned you may not find it necessary. Now you can refrigerate your stock and use it all week long, pour it into freezer containers to store for up to 6 months, or pressure can it in quart or pint jars and save it for a year or more. My kids and I will be making soup to eat after the big Apple Cup game today (go Cougs!), keeping some for risotto tomorrow, and canning the rest.

My shelves full of home canned foods. Much of the turkey broth will end up here.

My shelves full of home canned foods. Much of the turkey broth will end up here.

We might not have made the purchase of a lifetime at 4am. Or pushed our way through crowds  toward a 50% off mega-splash-dyno-tastic toy. But that's okay. I'll shop on Small Business Saturday and feel good about that. But today my wallet and I won't be going anywhere. We're just going to spend one more day being grateful that we have far more than we need.

Katy Penwell

of Milk and Honey, Lynnwood, WA 98087, USA